Becky Lopez-Piraino: 36 Years of Working with Children

Posted on: Thursday, 06/27/2019

Becky Lopez-PirainoREBECCA LOPEZ-PIRAINO WAS ONLY 19-YEARS-OLD when she accepted a dental assistant position with a UCLA dental satellite clinic in downtown Los Angeles. She had just received her registered dental assistant license from Los Angeles City College, and she liked the fact that the clinic catered to underserved children in the area. She was hired by the then-chair of pediatric dentistry, Dr. Don Duperon, who has become a father-figure to her over the years. “Dr. Duperon has been such a valuable mentor and guiding figure in my career. He’s brilliant–a true walking encyclopedia.”

Becky celebrated her 36-year work anniversary this past January, which is quite an accomplishment considering she rides a bus four hours a day to get to-and-from work. This anniversary doesn’t include the three years of contract work that she did before becoming a permanent employee. 

The dedicated UCLA Dentistry veteran instantly loved working with children and it didn’t take long for Becky to realize that she had found her path. She was instrumental in recruiting students from local elementary schools to come to the clinic to get the services they needed. At one point, the UCLA satellite clinic was seeing up to a dozen children per day. After eight years of operation, in 1991, funding ran out to keep the clinic running, so she was faced with having to find another opportunity. 

Luckily, the Section of Pediatric Dentistry at the dental school needed a clinic business manager, so Becky applied. She slowly transitioned from chair-side assisting to more of the managerial, administrative aspects of running a busy clinic. In 2010, she began assisting the clinic, as a general anesthesia coordinator, with the large volume of medically compromised patients that come to UCLA. The additional responsibility, which she says has been the most rewarding part of her job, includes appointment scheduling, coordination of transportation, insurance authorization, and managing medical records.

“Our special needs patients are those children who no one else will treat. There’s a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that we’re helping a portion of the population that has nowhere else to turn,” Becky said. “It’s very rewarding to see that our patients receive the care they need. We’re doing our job as a public university.”

Becky sees UCLA pediatric dentistry as a family and considers the staff and faculty to be close friends. She also enjoys seeing alumni of the residency program at the Section’s annual alumni day. “It takes someone who can listen, is patient, and has a big heart to work with children,” she said. “When I see our alumni experiencing so much success and serving their communities, there’s a sense of pride I feel in having helped guide them to achieve their goals.”